Bookshelf: Children’s book blends witchcraft, Jewish faith

Plus Karen White advances her new series, and Barbara Kingsolver for the win.

This week in Bookshelf, two Atlanta authors launch new novels this month, and one of the South’s most celebrated authors wins the Pulitzer Prize.

Happy pub day! Atlanta author Laurel Snyder publishes her latest middle grade chapter book, “The Witch of Woodland” (Walden Pond Press, $16.99) on Tuesday, May 16.

It centers around Zippy, a 13-year-old late-bloomer who’s in no hurry to grow up, but two impending events are propelling her toward a future she doesn’t feel equipped to handle: her bat mitzvah and her first middle school dance.

Adding to Zippy’s anxiety is her lifelong best friend Bea, who’s starting to spread her wings. No longer content for them to be each other’s constant companion, Bea encourages Zippy to expand their social circle to no avail.

There are a couple of reasons Zippy feels like an outsider among her schoolmates, and the main one is that she’s a witch who performs magic. One day she mistakenly conjures a mysterious young girl with wings who has no memory of who she is and where she came from, and it’s up to Zippy to help her find out.

Credit: Walden Pond Books

Credit: Walden Pond Books

Meanwhile, as Zippy prepares for her bat mitzvah, she begins to ponder what it means to be Jewish. Her family is what she calls “Jewish light.” They are not particularly observant and only go to temple for major holidays, so many of the concepts she’s learning are new to her.

Zippy “isn’t sure that she believes in God, exactly,” writes Snyder in a reader’s note, “but she knows deep in herself that she believes in magic, and she’s wrestling with how to resolve the two.”

“The Witch of Woodland” is Snyder’s eighth middle grade novel, but it’s the first one that’s dealt so deeply with the issues of Jewish identity.

“The ongoing rise in anti-Semitic violence made me realize how necessary it is for me to include this aspect of my life in my writing,” she writes. “I’m proud of my Jewish identity.”

Like Snyder’s previous middle grade novel, “My Jasper June,” “The Witch of Woodland” takes place in Ormewood Park and features lots of familiar landmarks like Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream, Bookish bookstore and Hodgepodge Coffeehouse that are fun for readers in the know to spot.

All told, Snyder’s latest novel is a thoughtful, engaging book sure to captivate young readers.

Snyder will discuss her book and sign copies along with Mayonn Passawae-Valchev, author of “There Flies the Witch,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. Tickets are free but registration is required at

Credit: Berkley

Credit: Berkley

Spooky real estate. May 9 was publication day for Milton author Karen White’s “The House on Prytania” (Berkley, $28), the second book in her new Royal Street series, which is a spinoff of White’s popular Tradd Street series.

The new series is set in New Orleans where Nola has moved to renovate the historic Creole Cottage, which is home to a few amiable spirits and one possibly malevolent one. When his kidnapped sister Sunny resurfaces, Nola’s house-flipping partner Beau (who provides the romantic tension) is convinced the father of Nola’s ex is responsible.

As Nola does double-duty trying to figure out who kidnapped Sunny and how to help the spirits in her house cross over to the other side, fan favorites from the Tradd Street series, including Melanie, pay visits.

White has several upcoming appearances. Bookmiser is hosting two free events — 2 p.m. Sunday, May 14, at J. McLaughlin at Avalon in Alpharetta, and 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Milton Library (855 Mayfield Road). She’ll also be at the Atlanta History Center at 7 p.m. Monday, May 15 ($30 including book).

White will be at the Milton Library at 855 Mayfield Road at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 16.

Credit: Amazon

Credit: Amazon

High honor. Virginia-based author Barbara Kingsolver continues to enjoy a phenomenal career, having published more than a dozen books of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry. Published in 1998, the bestselling novel “The Poisonwood Bible,” about a Baptist preacher from Georgia who takes his family on a mission to the Congo, was the book that really put her on the map.

But her latest, “Demon Copperhead,” a modern-day retelling of Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” set in Appalachia, topped a lot of best book lists last year, including the AJC’s best Southern books of 2022. About the novel, AJC book critic Leah Tyler wrote: “It’s hard to ascertain which is more brilliant, Kingsolver’s skill in modernizing Dickens’ narrative or the voice she gives to the privations and adversities facing the land and people she so dearly loves.”

On May 8, “Demon Copperhead” was awarded the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Suzanne Van Atten is book critic and contributing editor The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at